Forgotten Realms 'Shards of Ancient Rune'
Waterdeep, also known as the City of Splendors or the Crown of the North, was the most important and influential city in the North and perhaps in all Faerûn. For this reason it was considered part of the Western Heartlands of the Realms, even though it lay 150 miles north of Daggerford on the shores of the Sword Coast. The city sat “slightly above the 45 degree north latitude line on Toril.” The road to Waterdeep was well paved and well patrolled. The city was the hub of trading from the mineral-rich lands to the north, the merchant kingdoms of Amn and Calimshan to the south, the kingdoms of the Inner Sea to the east, and the sea kingdoms and traders to the west. Waterdeep’s authority extended between thirty to forty miles from its walls.
Waterdeep was named for its outstanding natural deep water harbor, and the city that grew up at this site became the commercial crossroads of the northern Realms. More than 100,000 people made their home in Waterdeep. The city sprawled northward from the sea, spreading along the flanks of Mount Waterdeep, which used to be home to the Melairkyn, a mithral-mining dwarven clan, and the entire length and great depth of the mountain was riddled with passages and tunnels, most of which were occupied by deadly creatures whose presence in the mountain pre-dated the founding of the city itself. The halls of Undermountain located beneath the city were a popular target for adventurers, who enjoyed the close vicinity of the city’s main taverns and temples where aid could be purchased through donations.
After the Spellplague it lost its title of Faerûn’s most important and influential city to Baldur’s Gate. Baldur’s Gate grew not only larger than Waterdeep in population but also doubled its area.
Waterdeep was built on the site of the ancient elven settlement of Aelinthaldaar, which gave way to a farming community of humans that developed into Bloodhand Hold. This was conquered and renamed Nimoar’s Hold before the name “Waterdeep” caught on. Waterdeep was the most common name used by the sea captains docking to trade at the port.
Waterdeep was used as a trading site for trade activities between northern tribesmen and southern merchants from -1088 DR onwards. By 52 DR, permanent farms had sprung up in the area. The name “Waterdeep” (not as a city, but as a town) was used by the ship captains docking to trade at the port, and it was slowly adopted into common use. The city was truly established by 1032 DR, the year Ahghairon became the first Lord of Waterdeep, and the date from which Northreckoning is counted.
The city grew spectacularly, such that by 1248 DR both the City of the Dead and the guilds had been developed. The guild masters seized control soon afterwards, ushering in a period of unrest and bitter conflict known as the Guild wars. The Guild wars ended only when the two surviving guild masters brought in their own period of misrule. It was only in 1273 DR that the present system of government was instituted. This was the year that the Magisters were established and the secret Lords of Waterdeep were firmly reestablished. Since that time, the city has continued to grow and prosper.
Humankind and other races came from all over the Realms to earn hard coin in the City of Splendors. Over the years these successful merchants set up guilds and themselves became nobility, supporting the secretive Lords of Waterdeep who policed the city fairly, yet with a light hand, by means of the superb City Guard (soldiers), City Watch (police) and over 20 black-robed magistrates. As a result, Waterdeep was a place tolerant of different races, religions, and lifestyles. This in turn encouraged commerce and Waterdeep grew into a huge, eclectic city.
Waterdeep was ruled by a council whose membership was largely secret. These hidden Lords of Waterdeep maintained their identities behind magical masks, called helms and while they ruled in public, none knew the true identities of most of them. The subject of who the Lords were became a common topic of noble conversation, and some considered it a game to discover the Lords’ identities, a game made more confusing by the fact the Lords themselves set their own rumors afloat.
As of around 1370 DR, stone was imported from Mirabar via Luskan for use in construction, having been magically transported. This was an expensive process.
Around 1374 DR, during the late autumn time, wagons and cart overcrowded the markets as foreign vendors attempted to sell as much as possible before returning home for the winter. This was a practice ignored by the Guard, the Watch and the guilds.
Waterdeep was the start of several trade routes:
The Long Road, the inland trade route to the north.
The High Road, the coastal trade route to the north.
The Trade Way, the trade route to the south.
Defense and Justice
Waterdeep maintained two separate armed forces, the Guard and the Watch. The City Guard served as Waterdeep’s soldiery and its members staffed garrisons, road patrols, and watchposts, and served as bodyguards and gate guards. The Watch was the local police force and in addition to capturing criminals, its members settled petty disputes, gave directions, summoned medical and priestly aid, generally performing duties that promoted the idea that Waterdeep was a city open to all who know how to behave themselves.
Waterdeep had strong walls on its landward sides and was protected in part by Mount Waterdeep on the seaward side. Mount Waterdeep was studded with watch towers and defensive positions, and patrolled by special guard units on flights of hippogriffs. Aside from this Waterdeep also benefited from a large native population of the adventuring classes (including powerful mages, priests, and warriors) who were more than willing to deal with any and all miscreants who threatened their home city, and did so in the past. This often proved the City of Splendors most potent defense.
Waterdhavian justice was dispatched by the Magisters, who directed the common courts of the city. These Black Robes, as they were often called, were empowered to pass sentences. They were always accompanied by six members of the guard. Any individuals found guilty could appeal to the Lord’s Court, ruled over by the masked Lords of Waterdeep, where serious cases were usually heard. Individuals bringing frivolous cases to the Lord’s Court usually faced stiffer fines than if they accepted a magister’s ruling.
Other important factions
It was said that the Lords ruled Waterdeep but do not truly run it. This was quite true, in that there were a number of other factions who made up Waterdeep. The most noticeable were the guilds – powerful merchant and craft organizations that controlled much of the life-blood of the city. Once, the guilds ruled the city, and it almost destroyed itself in a series of internal commercial wars. No one wanted to see those days return.
A second important Waterdhavian faction was the local nobility. It consisted of 76 families of varying degrees of power, most of whom could trace their lines to before the founding of Waterdeep itself. Many powerful names came out of Waterdeep, including the Amcathras (whose scion is now Lord of Shadowdale), the Cassalanters, wealthy moneylenders, as well as the Wands, a family of powerful and noble wizards.
Third, a rising merchant class existed outside the standard guilds. These were caravan and coaster operators, and they used Waterdeep as a destination for their caravan goods. More shops offered a variety of different goods because of this growing group. The most notable of these new merchants was the retired wizardess Aurora, who established a magical retail organization to supply a wide number of patrons across the North with specialized items.
A large host of adventurers flooded the city at any given time. Some established themselves as citizens of good standing and remained permanently, while others drifted off for other climes or met their ends in back-alley brawls. With the exception of the Gray Hands, secret societies such as the Harpers and the Red Sashes made up the closest thing to organizations drawn from this group.
Faith in Waterdeep
Waterdeep had a huge variety of faiths, and the odds were that if a deity was worshiped somewhere in Faerûn, it had at least a follower (or likely a wandering priest or two, and maybe a shrine) in the City of Splendors. However, there were only seven major temple complexes within the city. They were dedicated to Gond, Lathander, Mystra, Selûne, Sune, Tempus, and Tymora.
In addition to the temples, shrines to Silvanus, Mielikki, Chauntea, Lliira, Sharess, and Siamorphe (the last two are local divinities) could be found here. Additionally, there were secret temples and hidden shrines to most of the dark gods, often hidden away beneath the streets of the city. These included churches of Cyric, Talona, Umberlee, Shar, Auril, and a wide variety of the Beast Cults, including the Cult of the Dragon. In the years immediately following the Time of Troubles, Waterdeep had an active Cult of Ao; however, this later diminished almost to nonexistence.
There was also a temple dedicated to Baravar Cloakshadow located within the Warrens beneath Waterdeep.
Thieves’ guilds in Waterdeep
The last official thieves’ guild in Waterdeep was destroyed in 1300 DR, and while there have been many claimants to that position and title over the years, there have been no groups of sufficient power to challenge the Lords of Waterdeep. Since the Lords were secret, no criminal knows if a trusted partner is truly on his or her side or not.
This is not to say that there were no thieves or crime in the streets of Waterdeep. Rather, crime here was random and dispersed, with no one leader or organization to command it. The most recent attempt was made by a crime lord named Xanathar, a beholder with a well developed secret network in his service. This network was savaged and Xanathar defeated through the actions of bold adventuring companies at the command of Lord Piergeiron. Whether a new crime lord comes to the fore remains to be seen.
Wards of Waterdeep
Since 1035 DR Waterdeep was roughly divided into wards. The wards originally all had guards and walls in the manner of Procampur and other ancient cities, but the press of progress toppled or bored through most of the walls. Only the walls and guards around the City of the Dead are still maintained. The wards of Waterdeep were:
This central ward encompassed Mount Waterdeep and much of the government of the city. Here was located Castle Waterdeep, the place of government, as well as the Palace of Waterdeep (also known as Piergeiron’s Palace), Lord Piergeiron’s private residence,6 and Blackstaff Tower, the residence of the Archmage of Waterdeep. This ward was also a common place for retired adventurers such as Mirt the Moneylender to make their homes.
City of the Dead
This park-like area was surrounded by high walls. It was often visited during the day by wanderers and the odd picnicker. At night, the gates of the City of the Dead were closed, for it was Waterdeep’s graveyard. The more important personages had their own personal graves or family shrines, while others were confined to larger crypts. The reason for the guards was not to protect the graves, but rather to protect the city from the occasional restless undead creature that did not appreciate its accommodations.
As one might assume, the Dock Ward was situated hard on the Great Harbor of Waterdeep and held the docks, shipbuilding yards and warehouses for the sea trade. The harbor was inhabited by mermen who kept the peace within their own aquatic city.
Not strictly a ward, Mistshore was the derelict old naval harbor. The area was home to outcasts and criminals who lived along the shoreline or on wrecked ships half-sunk in the harbor.
Tucked in the northeastern portion of the city, North Ward was the home of the nobility and their villas. The moneyed classes made their homes here, far removed from the hustle and bustle of the lower classes by the docks and in Southern Ward.
The wealthiest of the wards, Sea Ward contained many of the temples of Waterdeep, along with a good helping of the newer noble families and retired adventurers who could afford the odd villa or two. The Field of Triumph, Waterdeep’s arena, was located here.
Officially known as the Southern Ward, but only nonnatives refer to it as such, was a place of caravan masters and traders, for it was close to the South Gate, the opening to the Trade.
Waterdeep’s commercial section.
Festivals and holidays
In addition to the standard festivals of the Calendar of Harptos there were several festivals and holy days held in Waterdeep:
A holiday celebrated on the first day of Eleasias, commemorating Ahghairon’s birthday. It consisted of small details, like toasting for the Lords, leaving violets at the base of Ahghairon’s Tower, the Plinth, or atop the altars of the House of Wonder and bards performing songs in honor of the Old Mage. The Open Lord visited taverns and inns across the city, to wish the people well.
Held on the day of winter’s first frost, included everyone in the city wearing white clothes, not serving or eating hot meals, and a parade of naked men and women wearing only white cloaks going from Cliffwatch in the North Ward, across the city and to the beaches. There, participants dived into the icy waters, sacrificing their warmth to the Frostmaiden.
A festival celebrating the sea, the sea trade and the gods of the sea. It spanned the last tenday of Ches, and included boat races, the Shipwright’s Ball at the Shipwright’s House, and guild-sponsored galas at the Copper Cup festhall. The festival was concentrated in Dock Ward and the Fiery Flagon in Sea Ward.
A nightly celebration, honoring the Lady of Joy with dances and balls, held the 7th of Flamerule. Although the celebration was carried all over the city in many festhalls, the highlight of the night was the Cynosure Ball, which was sponsored by the Lords, the local clergy of Lliira and several noble families.